This is how you make a championship feel important, ladies and gentlemen.
The Feb. 13, 2013 episode of WWE NXT on HuluPlus opens with a video package running down the history of the month-long tournament to crown the first ever NXT tag team champions. Starting with a visit from the Heartbreak Kid, Shawn Michaels, to announce the creation of the belts and kick off the tourney, with highlights from every match, including every tournament mark's dream...the bracket:
Tony Dawson and William Regal sit at the announce table with the straps as we get ready for our first match of the night.
Mike Dalton versus Axl Keegan
As I start to jot down some notes about the bleached-blonde Dalton actually getting an entrance and showing some personality, I notice that Summer Rae is back as a ring announcer after it looked like she had switched to being a wrestler the past few weeks.
No sooner has Axl begun his entrance than Paige runs past him on the ramp and chases Summer from the ring. She grabs the microphone and reiterates her threat to hold up the show unless she gets a match with the leggy blonde former/current spokesperson. I swear, her shrieky and quivery lipped comes across more bratty toddler than rebellious teen. The bearded Keegan attempts to talk her down and gets slapped in the face for his efforts. NXT Commissioner Dusty Rhodes is out to tell the Anti-Diva that he does not negotiate with terrorists and instructs his referees to remove her from the ring.
Ms. Rae emerges from the back to talk smack from behind Rhodes and proclaim herself the "first lady of NXT". Paige charges her again, and the American Dream is caught in a developmental diva sammich. The women are pulled apart and Paige is acting like her left arm is hurt as we go to break.
In the back, a doctor is examining the British diva's shoulder. Screw Dalton and Keegan, apparently.
Corey Graves defeats Alex Riley
in approximately six minutes via tapout
- Every time we see Riley we're told that he has all the tools to succeed: the look, athleticism, mic skills, etc. He was around the main event as Miz's lackey for a long while, came out on top in an upper mid-card feud against the Awesome One fresh off his WWE championship run...and now he jobs in developmental. Maybe he pissed off Cena, I don't know. But, whenever I feel like bitching about how my favorite mid-carder is getting buried or screwed, I'm going to apply the ‘A-Ry test'. Would I rather Cody Rhodes, Dolph Ziggler, Damien Sandow, hell, Michael McGillicutty be in Alex's position, or am I impressed that they survive where they are?
- Seriously, y'all. Alex Riley is cautionary tale we should tell young smarks.
- I can not get over my issues with Corey Graves' look. This week, he complements the toughness-diluting belly button tattoo with a bleach-splattered, acid wash-looking sleeveless denim vest that I last saw on a girl in my sophomore chem lab back in 1992.
- This match builds off some tension during a backstage interview and Corey's post-match attack on A-Ry after his loss in the tag tournament. They continue the theme as a Riley attacks angrily with his arsenal of drop kicks and splashes to set the early pace.
- A little of the old back and forth after a nice heel gesture from Graves in offering a handshake as prelude to a sneak attack. CG leads for a while with kicks, stomps and ground and pound before an arm-in neck crank allows them to catch their breath.
- Alex battles back and reverses a standing suplex, then hits a spinebuster for two. But Corey lands a spear to the knee and applies an inverted figure four leg lock that Regal says he hasn't seen before. Riley quickly taps, for the third time in his last two NXT appearances.
Dusty has granted Paige a match with Summer Rae; video rolls of the brunette having her shoulder taped.
Recap-a-gogo comes to NXT! Time is filled with a spot for Sunday's Elimination Chamber matches, and then a replay of the segment that opened the show.
Summer Rae defeats Paige
in approximately two and a half minutes via pinfall
- The former Lingerie Footballer is out first to the kind of lyric-free, poppy music that all divas not named Paige get these days regardless of face/heel alignment. I don't think she's gorgeous, but she has a non-enhanced athletic body type and Stacy Kiebler legs. I do believe that the blonde has the elusive "it", though. She carries herself like she belongs and does a lounging, top rope centerfold pose during her ring entrance that begs for a crowd reaction.
- Paige screams and runs out to her usual pop and immediately lunges at Summer, punching and pulling her hair. The ref pulls her off, and that allows SR to start her assault on the injured left arm, which she does through twisting and striking before applying an arm scissor.
- Hell ‘n Boots, as Regal refers to his countrywoman, gets in her lone piece of offense off of a roll-up when she slams Rae's face to the mat by her hair. The tanner woman rolls out of the ring, pulls Paige's face into the lower rope and them re-enters the legal area to hit an impressive spinning round house kick for the victory.
Sasha Banks is delivered another note from her totally-not-Alicia-Fox-planning-an-ambush secret admirer. It puts off their meeting for another week, despite what we were promised last week. It's okay Saash, I'm still waiting for El Local versus Xavier Woods, too.
We're also teased with the promise of an interview with Tyson Kidd next week, where he will address his future. Interesting...
Oliver Grey and Adrian Neville defeat The Wyatt Family (Luke Harper & Erick Rowan)
to become the first NXT Tag Team Champions in approximately fifteen minutes via pinfall when Neville pins Harper
- Neville and Grey enter first, to a big screen video featuring the high flier's name and highlights, so I assume it's his music, too. No mention of the dreadful "British Ambition" team name they were hawking last week. Regal mentions the British Bulldogs and plays up the importance of tag team wrestling to Englanders and vice versa.
- Bray Wyatt leads his 580 pounds worth of scary rednecks to the ring with his standard brief but chilling entreaty to "follow the buzzards" to their latest victims.
- The commish is in the ring with the belts, lending a different kind of air to the main event. I guess Jim Ross is no longer doing play-by-play for NXT though, which is a shame. Dawson is improving, but...
- Grey and Harper start off with just a sampling before our first break. The young gun dumps the bearded indie vet to the outside and splashes onto him, prompting Wyatt to stand from his rocker and jaw at them. Foreshadowing?
- The Brits work a series of quick tags that give us our first sense of how WWE will handle longer Neville matches. To this point, he's been in squashes and tag matches that have only shown his big spots. He's doing just fine with elbows, kicks and a sleeper hold amidst aerial dodges and dropkicks.
- Oliver stays in when Luke attempts to dump him from the ring after a big drop kick. Bray pulls him from the apron. This draws the ire of Dusty, who expels the Family's leader from ringside.
- Harper and Rowan isolate the larger Englishman and work a good combination of strikes, power moves and rest holds. Dawson and Regal do a great job here calling the action, putting over the Wyatt Family gimmick by speculating on how Bray's absence will affect his charges and playing up the importance of NXT championships by pointing out that the only two men to hold one (Seth Rollins and Big E Langston) are currently regulars on WWE television.
- Grey manages to "Hulk Up" and crawl to his corner while Harper lands elbow drops on him. The Man that Gravity Forgot enters with rapid elbows and kicks, followed by a sweet spin-though DDT. Luke regains momentum on a sick spot where he catches a top rope springboarding Neville with a big boot. Adrian's partner breaks up a pinfall attempt off the boot, and Erick throws him from the ring and proceeds to savage him on the floor.
- The jumpin' Geordie dodges a running elbow from Harper that takes out his partner. The big man turns into an amazing enziguri (considering how far up AN needs to get to kick Luke's head) which lays him out for the corkscrew shooting star press.
- WE HAVE OUR FIRST CHAMPIONS!
Rhodes personally hands out the titles, as Neville and Grey celebrate like grateful babyfaces. Dawson hits the ring to try to get a few comments, but mostly gets shouted over and pushed out of the way for more hugs. Regal informs us that he has never been prouder to be British as we fade out.
Worth seeking out for the main event alone, but if you're pressed for time you can probably skip the first half-hour of the show. I'll grade it a 'B' on the strength of the tag match.
I'm still concerned about tag wrestling throughout the WWE system, as even the developmental champs feel like two singles stars biding their time. But let's see where we go from here.
What say you, dear readers? How would you book the tag scene in NXT? Who has the bigger upside, Paige or Summer Rae? What female grunge fashion staple will Corey Graves model next?
Give us some sugar in the comments, Cagesiders!